04.03.03 Lk. 1:26-38 Angelic Encounter in Nazareth
MARY TOLD OF CONCEPTION
26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. 30 Then the angel told her:
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great
and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.
34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?”
35 The angel replied to her:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.
36 And consider your relative Elizabeth — even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”
38 “I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.
“In the sixth month.” This was the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, a key point in determining the date when Jesus was born as is further described below.
“The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth.” The gospel writers never recorded where Gabriel met Mary, yet at least one extra-biblical book indicates that she went to fill a pitcher with water, which would have been at the village well.
And Mary took the pitcher and went forth to fill it with water: and a voice saying “hail, you that are highly favored, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women.”
Protoevangelium of James 11:1
Water wells were often the community meeting places and Nazareth had only one well. A similar setting is found in John 4 where Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the village well. The patriarch Jacob met his wife Rachel at a village well. In Genesis 16:7, the angel found Hagar by a spring. The apocryphal Gospel of Mary, also states that the angel met Mary by the well.
“A virgin engaged to a man named Joseph.” To have been engaged or pledged to be married meant that a written legal contract was signed by the bride and groom. Such an agreement was known as a katuvah, or katubah and was almost always approved by both parents. Mary and Joseph would have had a katuvah, as it was the custom of the time that stated that they were committed to each other as much as a married couple would be, but they were not yet married. In fact, other cultures likewise had marital contracts. An example is as follows:
04.03.03.A. A SECOND CENTURY KATUVAH. Wrapped in burlap, this katuvah from the year A.D. 128 was found in one of the many Judean caves.
According to the katuvah (above), the date has been reconciled to April 5, 128, a contract of marriage was written in Greek by a certain Yehudah, who…
Gave into marriage his own daughter Shelamzion, virgin, to Yehudah, nicknamed Kimber, son of Hananiah [son of] Somalam, both of the village of En-gedi in Judea, dwelling there.
The bridegroom Yehudah agreed to give to Shelamzion, as security when the contract was signed,
All the property which he owns in the said village [En-gedi] as well as here and which he might acquire.
Ketuvah Papyrus (2nd Century A.D.)
Unfortunately, so much of this katuvah had deteriorated over the centuries that the entire agreement could not be deciphered.
“You will call His name Jesus.” It was the custom to name the first-born son after his grandfather, but this was not to be. Rather, the common and shortened Hebrew name Yeshua, was to be given. It was translated to Greek (Iesous 2424), then to Latin, then to English to what is today, Jesus. In Hebrew, it is Joshua, from a more fully developed name, Yehoshuah. Its meaning is savior or salvation, or the Lord saves, or Yeshua, meaning, Yahweh is salvation. Joshua, the Old Testament counterpart, led the Israelites out of the desert and into a new life in the Promised Land. Likewise, Jesus came to save humanity and lead people out of the desert of sin and into new life in Him.
According to rabbinic tradition, it was understood that the name of the messiah was determined before the foundations of the world were laid. It should be noted that Luke took the verse, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,” directly from the third century (B.C.) Septuagint translation of Isaiah 7:14. The reference to the messianic name of Immanuel in Isaiah 7:14 was never literally fulfilled until Jesus came. Immanuel means God with us (Mt. 1:23) or God Himself, which is precisely what Jesus was in human flesh. Since His death and resurrection, He has been correctly called “God with us.”
“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” The phrase “He will be great,” must have stunned Mary. Greatness in the Old Testament was always a reference to God, never to a man. It most certainly must have been perplexing to Mary and Joseph. The word “great” was associated only with the Lord (YHWH). Previously the angel used the term when speaking to Zechariah (Lk. 1:15), and now Mary was also told her Son would be great.
Critics of Scripture have long said that the phrases “Son of the Most High” and “Son of God” have Greek origins. Although they had no literary evidence, they concluded that these phrases were second or third century theological developments by church leaders who inserted them into the Scripture. However, with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeologists found a treasure of fifteen thousand literary fragments in Cave 4. Among them was Fragment 4Q246 that has an amazing parallel to Luke 1:32 and 35. Since the fragmented papyrus is torn, it is not a complete reading. There is, however, sufficient text to accurately reconstruct the original writing with the missing words in parentheses below:
[He] shall be great upon the earth.
O king, all [people] shall make [peace]
and all shall serve him.
He shall be called the Son of the [G]reat God,
and by his name shall he be hailed [as] the Son of God,
and they shall call him Son of the Most High.
Dead Sea Scroll Fragment, 4Q246
The discovery of Dead Sea Scroll 4Q246 clearly demonstrates that the phrases critics questioned were of common usage among even the most religious Jews and reinforces the literal interpretation of the biblical event. It is additional evidence that eliminates the argument that narratives of the Scriptures were enhanced by later editors. Most noteworthy is the fact that the Essenes were a group of conservative Jews who passionately hated the Greek philosophy and culture. They would have been the last people to take anything from the Greeks. However, the mystery remains as to why the Essenes would have had a writing so close to Luke’s gospel when they considered themselves to be the most theologically and religiously pure.
The term “Holy Spirit” must be understood in the Jewish context because the full Christian understanding of it did not occur until after the ascension. In Jewish thought and philosophy the Holy Spirit had two primary functions.
- To reveal divine truth to men, and
- To enable men to recognize and accept that truth.
For that reason, the angel said to Mary that “the power of the Most High” would overshadow her – because what was about to happen was beyond her understanding of the Holy Spirit.
“Your relative, Elizabeth.” The word “relative” in the Greek, sygenes (4773v), meaning, one in the same family, can also be translated as kinswoman, although the latter phrase is out of use in modern English. The word cousin used in some translations is far too restrictive, although it is included in the broader framework of kinswoman. Mary’s family belonged to the tribe of Judah and Elizabeth’s to the tribe of Levi. Marriages between different tribes were customary.
“I am the Lord’s slave.” This phrase was a common saying among Jews and early Christians. The word slave can also be translated as servant. The English word slave or servant is derived from the Greek term doulos. A doulos was a common household slave, different from a prisoner in chains who was known as a desmios and forced into hard labor, such as an oarsman on a battleship. A slave or servant was the private property of another person who was free. Within the Jewish world, such captive people could participate in domestic worship and had to be treated humanely – a requirement of the Mosaic Law that greatly improved the life of a slave over what might have existed in neighboring cultures. A slave or servant was one who was expected to be fully dedicated to his master. The phrase “I am the Lord’s slave,” is a profession of dedication, to voluntarily serve God with the identical commitment as a servant would his earthly master. However, a kind master would also protect his servants and slaves. In Matthew 20:26-27 Jesus spoke of a servant (diakonos) and slave (doulos) as the ideal example for those who would be great (megas) or first (protos) among His people. Therefore, by proclaiming that she is the Lord’s slave, she is also placing herself completely under His Divine protection because she knows she will face many accusations and possible threats.
. See 04.03.10.Q2 “When was Jesus born?”
. The reader is reminded that quotations from non-biblical sources are not to be understood as being of equal authority with the biblical narratives. See 01.02.04.
. Achen, The Holy Land. 12.
. The marital contract is further described in 04.03.03.A and 08.02.01.
. The modern calendar did not exist at that time.
. Gilmour, “Luke.” 8:44.
. Vine, “Jesus.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:333.
. Mills and Michael, Messiah and His Hebrew Alphabet. 7.
. Hagner, “Matthew 1-13.” 19; Mills and Michael, Messiah and His Hebrew Alphabet. 7.
. Grant. “Jesus Christ.” 2:869; Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ. 45.
. Babylonian Talmud, Pesah 54a.
- Some two centuries before the birth of Jesus, the Jews in Egypt realized they needed to translate their Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, as they were losing their Hebrew tongue. This translation became known as the Septuagint (designated as LXX) and is frequently quoted by New Testament writers. See 02.02.25.
. Hagner, “Matthew 1-13.” 19.
. See Appendix 32 and Evans, Praying through the Names of God. 165-66.
. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible. 409-10.
. Examples of other titles for Jesus are the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:6); the head of the corner (Ps. 118:22; Lk. 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:7); The head of the body (Col. 1:18; 2:19); the head of the church (Eph. 1:22; 5:23); the firstfruits (1 Cor. 15:20); The firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18); the captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:10); the first and the last (Rev. 1:17); the firstbegotten (Heb. 1:6); and the firstborn (Rom. 8:29; Heb. 12:23).
. Ps. 48:2, 86:10, 135:5, 145:3.
. The bracketed words were inserted for clarification by Hershel Shenks, “An Unpublished Dead Sea Scroll Text Parallels Luke’s Infancy Narrative.” 24-25. News of this fragment was published in the academic journal, Biblical Archaeological Review in 1990, nearly forty years after its discovery. Yet its official translation remains unpublished as it supposedly challenges the position of scholars who publish such documents.
. Shenks, “An Unpublished Dead Sea Scroll Text Parallels Luke’s Infancy Narrative.” 24.
. Shenks, “An Unpublished Dead Sea Scroll Text Parallels Luke’s Infancy Narrative.” 24.
. Barclay, “Mark.” 79-81.
. Vine, “Cousin.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:135, and “Kin, Kinsfold, Kinsman, Kinswoman.” 2:342.
. Douglas, “Cousin.” 1:326; Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:260.
. Geikie, The Life and Words. 1:555.
. Zerwick and Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament. 172.
. Link and Tuente. “Slave, Servant, Captive, Prisoner, Freeman.” 3:589-91.
. The Code of Hammurabi attempted to improve the lives of slaves by making certain humane provisions for them. But it has been questioned how well these were enforced.
. Smith, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: Matthew. 240-41.